The ‘Keyboard Theremin’ Leon Termen, USA, 1930.

Leon Termen's 'Keyboard Theremin' 1932
Leon Termen’s ‘Keyboard Theremin’ 1932

 

Leon Termen, the creator of one of the first widely used and mass produced electronic instruments the eponymous ‘Theremin’ developed a keyboard version of the instrument during his stay in New York. The Keyboard Theremin used the same heterodyning technique to generate a monophonic tone but this time controlled by a five octave 61 key manual instead of the Theremin’s difficult to master hand gestures. The ex-cellist Termen also added a fingerboard continuous controller so that the player could switch between keyboard and string like playing. The instrument had two foot pedal to shape the sound and add vibrato and a series of organ-like stops to emulate the timbres of conventional instruments such as the organ, Piano, brass, woddwind as well as percussive timpani effects. The amplified output of 100 watts was fed into a bank of six twelve inch speakers.(1)

The 'Theremin Electric Symphony Orchestra' c1932. The Keyboard Theremin is on the right with a Theremin Harmonium on the left and several Theremin Cellos in the centre.
The ‘Theremin Electric Symphony Orchestra’ c1932. The Keyboard Theremin is on the right with a Theremin Harmonium on the left and several Theremin Cellos in the centre.

The Theremin Keyboard was premiered at a concert at the Carnegie Hall in 1932 by the ‘Theremin Electrical Symphony Orchestra’; a ten player ensemble (Termen originally wanted forty musicians) all playing fingerboard and keyboard theremins, each instrument tuned to take the part of an orchestral instrument and performing a ‘conventional’ classical repertoire including J.S.Bach’s ‘Fantasia in G’ and ‘Ave Maria’. Impressed by it’s range and portability, the composer Leopold Stokowski used the Keyboard Theremin at orchestral concerts in Philadelphia, New York and Washington.

'The Theremin Electro Ensemble' later called 'The Electrio' in 1932. (Left)Playing the RCA theremin is Leon Theremin's assistant, Julius Goldberg (with customised "lightning bolt" art deco, brass nickel chrome antennas). (Centre) playing the "Theremin Cello" is the Leonid Bolotine and (Right) Pianist Gleb Yellin is playing a Theremin Keyboard. In 1932, the ensemble could be heard on the radio every Monday afternoon at 2:15 over the Columbia Network, KMBC. (2)
‘The Theremin Electro Ensemble’ later called ‘The Electrio’ in 1932. (Left)Playing the RCA theremin is Leon Theremin’s assistant, Julius Goldberg (with customised “lightning bolt” art deco, brass nickel chrome antennas). (Centre) playing the “Theremin Cello” is the Leonid Bolotine and (Right) Pianist Gleb Yellin is playing a Theremin Keyboard. In 1932, the ensemble could be heard on the radio every Monday afternoon at 2:15 over the Columbia Network, KMBC. (2)

Sources

(1)’ Theremin: Ether Music and Espionage’ By Albert Glinsky. p145

(2)http://www.peterpringle.com/visitgoldie1.html

‘Music From Electrons’ Radio News. August 1972 P76. Irving J. Saxl. Phd

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